We’ve been married for 10 years and have four children under age eight. My husband’s very obvious about his favourite child and very hard on his least favourite.
He doesn’t see it. Or won’t admit it.
Otherwise, we have a very good relationship.
I feel like I have to protect the child least liked and balance the difference between how kind he is to one more than the others.
You’re fooling yourself if you think you have a good relationship but are constantly monitoring over your husband’s behaviour as a father. He needs a primer on the very real, negative effects of parental favouritism:
According to a social scientist writing in Psychology Today, “Unfortunately, the consequences of parental favouritism are what you might expect - they're mostly bad.”
The disfavoured child experiences worse outcomes: more depression, greater aggressiveness, lower self-esteem and poorer academic performance.
Meanwhile, the favoured children has problems because their siblings often come to resent them, poisoning those relationships.
The article also says that many of these consequences persist long after children have grown up and moved out of the house.
It’s clearly crucial for you to explain these consequences to your husband and say that his prejudicial behaviour can’t be accepted any more.
I’m 19, in university and trying to adjust to my adult life as a child of divorce. My parents split up two years ago. I thought then that they were both crazy and I was very angry at both of them.
Two years later, and living away from home, I’m trying to understand what went wrong with what they seemed to present to the world as the perfect marriage.
Why do people divorce after they’ve managed seemingly successful marriages – decent kids, good jobs, nice home - for as many as 20 years?
Confused About Divorce
There’s no simple answer. That’s not a cop-out, just a window into how complex marital relationships can be.
The majority begin with hopes and dreams, but not more life experience than you have yourself right now. Both partners face the realities of living costs, job demands, less time/space for themselves.
Even harder, on the emotional side, they have to adjust their convictions from different backgrounds, to accept the need for compromises, placing less importance on being “right” to getting along.
Then come children as in your family’s case… and a lot of former accommodation gets tossed or strained.
Yet even when things seem to work out well, there are still new stresses through the years - a personal illness or the loss of a parent, a change in job security or new ambition, even dissatisfaction with the dynamic of the relationship so far.
Not to mention the intimacy factor, which children may never really know much about.
You can see that it’s complicated.
As an adult now, I urge you to try not to judge your parents based on their divorce, but relate to them if at all possible, as still your parents.
The vast majority of divorced parents dearly want that connection with their adult children to continue.
If they talk to you about their divorce, tell them you don’t want to know their “story” of who did what to whom (if there had been ongoing abuse, you’d likely already have known or suspected it).
If you feel that their divorce has embittered your approach to your future, get counselling to discuss this with a professional.
That was their life. You have your own.
FEEDBACK Regarding the controlling ex-wife (September 9):
Reader – “The letter-writer’s account of how she used the children as pawns is sad. Unfortunately, it’s exactly the same as my ex-wife’s behaviour with me and my kids.
“My experience taught me that sometimes it’s best to let go of toxic relationships even when they’re with your own kids.
“It’s especially sad that an ex-wife can destroy their children and poison them against the father. The poor guy who wrote you needs to move on and enjoy his much-deserved happiness now, in the present.”
Ellie - This feedback shows that men, especially, need to hear more from each other about how to deal with their pain when children reject them based on an ex-spouse’s self-serving account.
Support from other men who’ve “been there,” is crucial. I urge male readers to write your stories to help others. I’ll publish a selection which will be anonymous.
Tip of the day:
By showing favouritism to one child and not another, parents create long-term negative consequences for both.